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By Anton Chekhov

By Anton Chekhov

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03/30/2010

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LOVE
by Anton Chekhov
"THREE o'clock in the morning. The soft April night is looking in at my windows andcaressingly winking at me with its stars. I can't sleep, I am so happy!"My whole being from head to heels is bursting with a strange, incomprehensible feeling.I can't analyse it just now -- I haven't the time, I'm too lazy, and there -- hang analysis!Why, is a man likely to interpret his sensations when he is flying head foremost from a belfry, or has just learned that he has won two hundred thousand? Is he in a state to doit?"This was more or less how I began my love-letter to Sasha, a girl of nineteen with whomI had fallen in love. I began it five times, and as often tore up the sheets, scratched outwhole pages, and copied it all over again. I spent as long over the letter as if it had been anovel I had to write to order. And it was not because I tried to make it longer, moreelaborate, and more fervent, but because I wanted endlessly to prolong the process of thiswriting, when one sits in the stillness of one's study and communes with one's own day-dreams while the spring night looks in at one's window. Between the lines I saw a beloved image, and it seemed to me that there were, sitting at the same table writing withme, spirits as naïvely happy, as foolish, and as blissfully smiling as I. I wrote continually,looking at my hand, which still ached deliciously where hers had lately pressed it, and if Iturned my eyes away I had a vision of the green trellis of the little gate. Through thattrellis Sasha gazed at me after I had said goodbye to her. When I was saying good-bye toSasha I was thinking of nothing and was simply admiring her figure as every decent manadmires a pretty woman; when I saw through the trellis two big eyes, I suddenly, asthough by inspiration, knew that I was in love, that it was all settled between us, and fullydecided already, that I had nothing left to do but to carry out certain formalities.It is a great delight also to seal up a love-letter, and, slowly putting on one's hat and coat,to go softly out of the house and to carry the treasure to the post. There are no stars in thesky now: in their place there is a long whitish streak in the east, broken here and there byclouds above the roofs of the dingy houses; from that streak the whole sky is flooded with pale light. The town is asleep, but already the water-carts have come out, and somewherein a far-away factory a whistle sounds to wake up the workpeople. Beside the postbox,slightly moist with dew, you are sure to see the clumsy figure of a house porter, wearinga bell-shaped sheepskin and carrying a stick. He is in a condition akin to catalepsy: he isnot asleep or awake, but something between.If the boxes knew how often people resort to them for the decision of their fate, theywould not have such a humble air. I, anyway, almost kissed my postbox, and as I gazed atit I reflected that the post is the greatest of blessings.I beg anyone who has ever been in love to remember how one usually hurries home after dropping the letter in the box, rapidly gets into bed and pulls up the quilt in the full
 
conviction that as soon as one wakes up in the morning one will be overwhelmed withmemories of the previous day and look with rapture at the window, where the daylightwill be eagerly making its way through the folds of the curtain.Well, to facts. . . . Next morning at midday, Sasha's maid brought me the followinganswer: "I am delited be sure to come to us to day please I shall expect you. Your S." Not a single comma. This lack of punctuation, and the misspelling of the word"delighted," the whole letter, and even the long, narrow envelope in which it was putfilled my heart with tenderness. In the sprawling but diffident handwriting I recognisedSasha's walk, her way of raising her eyebrows when she laughed, the movement of her lips. . . . But the contents of the letter did not satisfy me. In the first place, poetical lettersare not answered in that way, and in the second, why should I go to Sasha's house to waittill it should occur to her stout mamma, her brothers, and poor relations to leave us alonetogether? It would never enter their heads, and nothing is more hateful than to have torestrain one's raptures simply because of the intrusion of some animate trumpery in theshape of a half-deaf old woman or little girl pestering one with questions. I sent ananswer by the maid asking Sasha to select some park or boulevard for a rendezvous. Mysuggestion was readily accepted. I had struck the right chord, as the saying is.Between four and five o'clock in the afternoon I made my way to the furthest and mostovergrown part of the park. There was not a soul in the park, and the tryst might havetaken place somewhere nearer in one of the avenues or arbours, but women don't likedoing it by halves in romantic affairs; in for a penny, in for a pound -- if you are in for atryst, let it be in the furthest and most impenetrable thicket, where one runs the risk of stumbling upon some rough or drunken man. When I went up to Sasha she was standingwith her back to me, and in that back I could read a devilish lot of mystery. It seemed asthough that back and the nape of her neck, and the black spots on her dress were saying:Hush! . . . The girl was wearing a simple cotton dress over which she had thrown a lightcape. To add to the air of mysterious secrecy, her face was covered with a white veil. Notto spoil the effect, I had to approach on tiptoe and speak in a half whisper.From what I remember now, I was not so much the essential point of the rendezvous as adetail of it. Sasha was not so much absorbed in the interview itself as in its romanticmysteriousness, my kisses, the silence of the gloomy trees, my vows. . . . There was not aminute in which she forgot herself, was overcome, or let the mysterious expression dropfrom her face, and really if there had been any Ivan Sidoritch or Sidor Ivanitch in my place she would have felt just as happy. How is one to make out in such circumstanceswhether one is loved or not? Whether the love is "the real thing" or not?From the park I took Sasha home with me. The presence of the beloved woman in one's bachelor quarters affects one like wine and music. Usually one begins to speak of thefuture, and the confidence and self-reliance with which one does so is beyond bounds.You make plans and projects, talk fervently of the rank of general though you have notyet reached the rank of a lieutenant, and altogether you fire off such high-flown nonsensethat your listener must have a great deal of love and ignorance of life to assent to it.
 
Fortunately for men, women in love are always blinded by their feelings and never knowanything of life. Far from not assenting, they actually turn pale with holy awe, are full of reverence and hang greedily on the maniac's words. Sasha listened to me with attention, but I soon detected an absent-minded expression on her face, she did not understand me.The future of which I talked interested her only in its external aspect and I was wastingtime in displaying my plans and projects before her. She was keenly interested inknowing which would be her room, what paper she would have in the room, why I had anupright piano instead of a grand piano, and so on. She examined carefully all the littlethings on my table, looked at the photographs, sniffed at the bottles, peeled the oldstamps off the envelopes, saying she wanted them for something."Please collect old stamps for me!" she said, making a grave face. "Please do."Then she found a nut in the window, noisily cracked it and ate it."Why don't you stick little labels on the backs of your books?" she asked, taking a look atthe bookcase."What for?""Oh, so that each book should have its number. And where am I to put my books? I'vegot books too, you know.""What books have you got?" I asked.Sasha raised her eyebrows, thought a moment and said:"All sorts."And if it had entered my head to ask her what thoughts, what convictions, what aims shehad, she would no doubt have raised her eyebrows, thought a minute, and have said in thesame way: "All sorts."Later I saw Sasha home and left her house regularly, officially engaged, and was soreckoned till our wedding. If the reader will allow me to judge merely from my personalexperience, I maintain that to be engaged is very dreary, far more so than to be a husbandor nothing at all. An engaged man is neither one thing nor the other, he has left one sideof the river and not reached the other, he is not married and yet he can't be said to be a bachelor, but is in something not unlike the condition of the porter whom I havementioned above.Every day as soon as I had a free moment I hastened to my fiancée. As I went I usually bore within me a multitude of hopes, desires, intentions, suggestions, phrases. I alwaysfancied that as soon as the maid opened the door I should, from feeling oppressed andstifled, plunge at once up to my neck into a sea of refreshing happiness. But it alwaysturned out otherwise in fact. Every time I went to see my fiancée I found all her family

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